Almost 30 years after its construction, Poplar River Power Station (PRPS) has used its 100 millionth metric tonne of coal.
A lot has changed in the last three decades. While SaskPower once owned the Coronach mine that supplies its coal, it’s since been sold to Sherritt International. Generation capacity has increased, and a whole generation of employees have played out their careers at the plant. The entire time, the power station has been a steadfast source of power for the province, all thanks to a steady diet of lignite coal from the nearby Sherritt Coal - Poplar River Mine.
Howard Matthews, Plant Manager at PRPS, says the milestone is a big accomplishment for employees at both facilities and the nearby town of Coronach. Much of the town’s population works either in the power plant or at the coal mine.
“A hundred million tonnes, that’s quite a bit of coal to put through the unit,” says Matthews. “There’s a lot that goes into turning that much coal into electricity, so the employees are proud, and rightly so.”
To commemorate the event, PRPS hosted an open house that ran tours through the power facility and a celebratory dinner. Present were Yogi Huyghebaert, Minister of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing, and Robert Watson, SaskPower President and CEO. Also in attendance were former plant managers Stan Slotsve, Garner Mitchell and John Stevenson.
Tim Schuster, Fuel Supply Manager based out of Shand, says the symbiotic relationship PRPS has with the Coronach-area mine has been mutually beneficial. He adds Sherritt is just as proud of the milestone as PRPS employees.
“We’re very joined at the hip, you might say,” says Schuster. “Mining isn’t easy. There are weather considerations, maintenance, and huge equipment considerations that have to be managed.”
Two gigantic draglines make it possible to keep a steady supply of coal flowing to PRPS. Used for scraping off the soil and other subsurface material to get at the coal underneath is a process known as strip mining, the twin draglines have been staples at the mine since the facility opened.
Each machine weighs approximately 5900 tonne and has the capacity to dig the amount of material moved in the Wascana Lake project in Regina in less than a month. Each machine would cost roughly $175 million to replace, says Schuster.
While this might sound like a lot of money, the large machines are necessary to efficiently get at coal buried between 15 and 50 metres below ground.
“(They’re) working away for a long time before you actually get the dirt stripped off,” says Schuster.
The 24-car train that supplies coal from the mine to PRPS moves between the two sites roughly every two hours, depending on weather and other conditions;Each rail car can carry 90 tons of coal;All 24 cars can be filled with coal within 20 minutes in the summer. In the winter, this can take up to four hours. When the process is taking longer than expected, both the plant and the mine can make use of emergency coal reserves that have been set up beforehand; andThe coal used at PRPS is more than 60 million years old
Submitted by SaskPower